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The Age of Desire: Book summary and reviews of The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields

The Age of Desire

A Novel

by Jennie Fields

The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields X
The Age of Desire by Jennie Fields
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  • Published in USA  Aug 2012
    368 pages
    Genre: Historical Fiction

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Book Summary

They say behind every great man is a woman. Behind Edith Wharton, there was Anna Bahlmann - her governess turned literary secretary, and her mothering, nurturing friend.

When at the age of forty-five, Edith falls passionately in love with a dashing younger journalist, Morton Fullerton, and is at last opened to the world of the sensual, it threatens everything certain in her life but especially her abiding friendship with Anna. As Edith's marriage crumbles and Anna's disapproval threatens to shatter their lifelong bond, the women must face the fragility at the heart of all friendships.

Told through the points of view of both women, The Age of Desire takes us on a vivid journey through Wharton's early Gilded Age world: Paris with its glamorous literary salons and dark secret cafés, the Whartons' elegant house in Lenox, Massachusetts, and Henry James's manse in Rye, England.

Edith's real letters and intimate diary entries are woven throughout the book. The Age of Desire brings to life one of literature's most beloved writers, whose own story was as complex and nuanced as that of any of the heroines she created.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"The book's only flaw is the choice of present tense... Still, Fields's love and respect for all her characters and her care in telling their stories shines through." - Publishers Weekly

"While the novel concentrates more on the emotional than the intellectual sphere, it sheds welcome light on the little-known private life of a famous woman and her closest relationships in early-twentieth-century Europe and America." - Booklist

"Readers may find it hard to sympathize with the perpetually self-obsessed Edith, whose callousness toward her ailing husband is particularly difficult to excuse, but the novel should nonetheless appeal to those who enjoyed Paula McLain's The Paris Wife or other stories focusing on the stormy romantic lives of creative people from past eras." - Library Journal

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Reader Reviews

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Vivian Harrington

From Innocence to Desire
Fans of Edith Wharton will truly appreciate this novel based upon a few of Wharton's years in Paris beginning in 1907. From the salons of Paris, to the Wharton's estate (The Mount) in Lennox, MA, to the Vanderbilt's apartment on the Rue de Varenne, to the English countryside, to the small, out of the way cafe's and hotels in Montmartre, The Age of Desire transports the reader back to the gilded age. While the book started out slowly, I become more drawn in and transported to another place and time, where i wanted to dwell. I've no doubt the experiences made it possible for Edith to write what would, in my mind, become her masterpiece – The Age of Innocence. Highly recommended.

Diane S.

The Age of Desire
I loved the setting, tone and descriptive writing in this book. The descriptions of the homes that Wharton and her husband owned were fascinating. I enjoyed reading about the friendship between Edith and her assistant/friend, the trouble is I actually liked the friend much better than Edith. I also felt very sorry for Teddy, who really loved Edith, while she married him just because it was what people did. I also liked reading about her books and how they had been ignored for so many years until the publication of "The House of Mirth", which garnered much attention in the literary world. The literary scene and the cafes in France, the salons and the appearance of Henry James all made this a notable read. The descriptive writing and the Paris scene was by far my favorite parts of this book. Will definitely watch for this author's next work.

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Author Information

Jennie Fields

Jennie Fields received an MA in creative writing from the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop and is the author of the novels Lily Beach, Crossing Brooklyn Ferry, and The Middle Ages. An Illinois native, she spent twenty-five years as an advertising creative director in New York and currently lives with her husband in Nashville, Tennessee. Find her online at www.jenniefields.com.

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